By Nitya Chakraborty
In India, political scenarios change very fast. In 1984 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Congress secured more than 400 seats while the BJP’s tally fell into its lowest two. But the dream rule of the Congress Party did not last for more than two years. From 1987 onwards, the Bofors issue haunted the Rajiv Gandhi government leading to its defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. Former Finance Minister of Rajiv’s ministry V. P Singh led the new Government of his Party with support from both the BJP and the Left from outside.
That was a period of rabid anti-Congressism. The BJP fully exploited the anti- Congressism of the Left in its favour and the Party started getting dividends after the V P Singh government collapsed in November 1990. Though following 1991 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress formed the government under P V Narasimha Rao and that stayed its full term, the BJP expanded its support base to emerge as the only alternative to the Congress. It succeeded in 1998 Lok Sabha poll to form the government for a short period and again in 1999, the BJP led NDA won and ruled for five full years under the Prime Ministership of Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is ruling since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and in 2019 Lok Sabha poll, he made himself invincible by helping BJP win 303 seats alone. The same Modi is ending the year 2022 in a depleted state, giving all the impressions that he is vulnerable. The agitating farmers have shown the PM his place. PM has virtually surrendered to the unbreakable unity of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) by agreeing to all their demands. The Supreme Court probe panel on Pegasus is continuing the investigations and the report is being made ready for submission later this month. If the panel does not seek more time for its submission, the hearing will be in January next year. That will be a critical time for the PM as many of the actions of the PMO are under critical review.
For the opposition, this is the best time to hit at BJP and their leader Narendra Modi in an united manner. The signals at August 20 meeting of the opposition parties hosted by Sonia Gandhi were quite favourable for a solid unity. But in the last four months, differing voices are coming out relating to the relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee. A clinical analysis shows that the responsibility lies with both the Congress family and Mamata. First, the Congress, the GOP is the leader of the United Progressive Alliance and automatically as president Sonia Gandhi is the leader.
UPA has not been functioning in the recent years. The functioning of such an alliance and its expansion are of primary importance when the BJP government is firmly in saddle. The Congress as the largest party of the opposition has the main responsibility in activating the alliance, irrespective of its own organizational problems. There is no coordination committee, no core committee. The most important members NCP and RJD are disappointed. TMC has dissociated. DMK is still with the Congress but M K Stalin is assessing the situation. This is time, Sonia Gandhi, as the veteran, should come forward and convene a meeting of the parties who are opposed to the BJP and will fight unitedly against the saffrons in 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Much change has taken place since the UPA was formed. It is time to reinvent the alliance, taking into account the new developments in the national polity.
As regards Mamata, she is taking a different course now compared to August this year, perhaps at the advice of her strategist Prashant Kishor. As per this PK line, Mamata has got good acceptability in the country as the main fighter against Narendra Modi. The Congress is not fighting enough and the organisation is slipping giving scope to BJP. The TMC should seize this opportunity and emerge as the principal opposition party by grabbing a good part of the Congress base in different states.
Mamata has fallen for this strategy. There is nothing wrong for TMC in expanding its base in other states but that can be done without creating a big row about the leadership of the Congress and taking on Rahul Gandhi, without naming him. TMC can fight in Goa and Meghalaya on its own in the elections when they take place. But they should not divide the opposition camp. As of now, Akhilesh Yadav has given his support to Mamata while Shiv Sena has supported Rahul while appealing to him to be more active in leading and reactivating the alliance.
This division in the parties opposed to the BJP, is not desirable at this stage when the BJP high command is aggressively facing the opposition in the coming state assembly elections. Sharad Pawar is a veteran in opposition politics carrying respect from the leaders of other parties. He should immediately intervene in trying to bring Mamata and Sonia-Rahul together to sort out the differences. M K Stalin who has good equation with both Sonia and Mamata can also help. It is good that so far Sonia and Rahul have not officially reacted to what Mamata is saying. Even senior Congress leaders are mentioning in private that there is scope for a meeting between Sonia and Mamata.
Sharad Pawar has told of expanding and rejuvenating UPA. Mamata also wants expansion of opposition alliance. Pawar and Stalin can take the lead in sorting out the differences. If the basic objective is to defeat BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, and both Sonia and Mamata agree to it, there should not be any real difficulty in working out a compromise. The leadership issue of the opposition alliance can be discussed and the best course can be a collective leadership. As regards the projection of PM challenging Narendra Modi, there is time, that can be done later after the results of the coming state assembly elections, or even after 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Right now, the task of the opposition is to ensure that the unity remains intact to fight the BJP for the Lok Sabha poll. (IPA Service)